The dust has settled, the post-storm calm has arrived. Her, a film that received quite a bit of hype and buzz around Oscar Season, is one I thoroughly enjoyed back when I saw it in early 2014, but I hadn’t revisited it until now, some six or seven months later, and my opinion of the film has not changed. Original, quirky, funny, sad and acted brilliantly by all involved, it’s a film that made me, on both of the occasions I watched it, wish I’d come up with the idea, wish I’d thought of the story and written it, because it is just that good.
Spike Jonze, director of Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are, really pushed his own creative envelope here, as writer and director of a futuristic life-drama about a gloomy guy who falls in love with his evolving operating system. It’s a film that, on the surface, might seem gimmicky and reliant on the unique twist on a romance-story, but it’s much more than that. The future we see isn’t too far-fetched. It’s like a modern Japan mixed with an American idea of a technologically reliant future society, but in a way that feels likely, possible and not completely over-the-top.
Theodore is a melancholy soul who is in the process of a divorce that he never wanted, and he’s finding it difficult to pull himself out of his slump and move on, refusing to sign the papers that make said divorce official. He writes letters for a living, heart-felt and warm letters that are given from customers to their loved ones, a job he is successful at, and receives many positive reactions to. He discovers a new product called OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, and so he purchases one and installs it on his system. It is then that Theodore meets Samantha, his OS that speaks to him, learns, evolves and helps him deal with his problems. As Theodore spends more time with Samantha they begin to fall in love, and Theodore’s life changes forever. Dealing with his new found love for Samantha, and doubt about whether or not it is okay to feel that way, Samantha continues to learn new things, moving forward and progressing at a rapid rate. The two experience moments not unlike those between two human beings, and Samantha helps Theodore find joy and focus in his life again.
Joaquin Phoenix, as Theodore, is a wonderfully mumbling presence. Depressed, at times, and hopeful, in others, he is a character we can identify with in many ways, but also feel completely bewildered by in other ways. The delicate way Phoenix speaks, and his interactions with the non-physical Samantha, are brilliant. Scarlett Johansson, as Samantha, is incredible. With her voice alone she emotes sadness, joy, excitement, guilt, confusion, anger and a variety of other emotions, and it is amazing to think that she has been able to create a memorable cinematic character without even appearing, once, on screen. Her relationship with Theodore is made special due to the verbal chemistry between Johansson and Phoenix, which is undeniable, and truly remarkable. Rooney Mara, as Theodore’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Catherine, brings some background to his story, and, though her time on screen is limited, she is a vital part of the way the film works. Chris Pratt, as Theodore’s co-worker, Paul, is also really enjoyable. A kind-hearted and open-minded friend to Theodore, he brings a down-to-earth humour to the table which helps to split-up the more serious tone that the film has at many times. Amy Adams tops off the excellent cast as Theodore’s neighbour and friend, Amy, someone who has a love for him and acts as a human ear to his problems. It’s a cast that is so well put together, and has such a natural chemistry, that I found it impossible not to be seduced by the whole thing, not just once, but twice.
The romance between our human and his OS is done so well. They go on dates, they go on a trip together, they play games, they go out to dinner. It’s all very normal, only it isn’t, because its one man, and an earpiece and a device with a camera on it. The questions that Theorodre asks himself through the film, and the realisations he comes across as it proceeds are really intriguing and offer a view of just what it might be like if this were to become a possibility. It’s sci-fi in a very human way, dealing with core-emotions of men and women, yet in a futuristic setting in which computers and machines are vast and relied upon more than ever.
I love this film, what can I say? It’s one of those occasions where I am not struggling, but rather drawing a complete blank, when it comes to picking out negatives about it. It might not be for everyone, sure, but what film is? It might not tickle your fancy. It might not live up to the hype in your head, personally. But beyond that I cannot pinpoint a single thing wrong with this. Jonze has created a beautiful and imaginative film that ticked all the boxes for me. It’s not just a movie, and “she’s not just a computer”.